Even regular users of the internet will only ever have access to a fraction of the data that is actually available on the web. The websites that are accessible through search engines such as Google only represent a tiny fraction of what actually exists (less than 1 per cent). Much of this data is just spam, but there are also many websites that are deliberately hidden because these offer illegal services such as supplying drugs.
The web is a mind-blowingly large storage space for data. Most internet users will only ever bother with the top layer of this data, which is known as the ‘surface web’. There is also the ‘deep web’; this includes all the website pages that are not listed on search engines or that are hard to find. Some of this content will be stuff that is blacklisted by search engines such as Google because it is deemed as spam or because it breaks the terms of service. There is also an awful lot of data that the search engines just cannot make sense of, so it is just ignored.
The ‘dark web’ is usually used to describe those parts of the deep web that are made hard to find deliberately. It is often necessary to have special software in order to be able to access these websites. The reason for this high level of secrecy and security is that these sites are usually engaging in illegal activity such as criminal pornography or selling drugs.
Those internet users who know how to access the dark web can order drugs such as heroin as easily as other people can order books on Amazon. These drugs can then be mailed to the person ordering them in such a way as to greatly reduce the likelihood of discovery. There is also lots of information about how to manufacture substances such as methamphetamine.
The average internet user will probably not be ever able to find these websites. They not only require specialised software, but the data is heavily encrypted. It is usually only people who are particularly tech savvy, or have been invited to become a member, that know about these places. The problem is that as more and more people become skilled at using the internet, it means that there is a rising demand for drugs through the dark web.
Obtaining drugs via the dark web is much easier than hunting down a dealer. The ease by which people can do this means that it will encourage them to do it more often. It is also likely that the fact that these drug dealers have lower overheads means that they can offer these substances cheaper. The fact that these substances are being traded anonymously also means that there is even less concern about the quality of the drugs being sold – these online dealers will have few scruples about cutting their product with all type of nasty substances. Some of the most successful dark web drug dealers are located in Amsterdam, and the most popular drug at the moment is MDMA.
The internet has made life easier for people in many ways, but there is definitely a dark side to all of this as well. As well as the drugs being sold in the deep web, there is also the danger of ‘legal highs‘ being sold on the surface web. It has never been so easy for individuals to get their hands on these substances, and the war on drugs seems completely ineffective at dealing with the threat of online drug commerce.